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Board denies clemency for Arizona death-row inmate

This undated photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows death-row inmate Robert Henry Moormann. A federal judge on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 declined to delay the upcoming executions of Moorman and a second Arizona death-row inmate, Robert Charles Towery, over arguments that a new execution protocol violates their constitutional rights. Moormann, 63, is set to be executed Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 for the brutal killing and dismemberment of his adoptive mother in 1984. (AP Photo/Arizona Department of Corrections)

A longtime Arizona death-row inmate set to be executed next week told a state clemency board Friday that he remembers some sexual activity with his adoptive mother on the night he killed her but can’t remember strangling, stabbing, suffocating or dismembering her.

The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency voted 4-1 against recommending that Gov. Jan Brewer reduce Robert Henry Moormann’s death sentence to life in prison. They voted unanimously against recommending any delay in his execution scheduled for Wednesday.

Later Friday, the Arizona Supreme Court denied a stay for Moormann and said there were no court orders at the time that would stop the scheduled execution.

Lawyers for Moormann had filed a 21-page motion Tuesday with the state’s high court saying he was diagnosed in early childhood as being mentally retarded and therefore can’t be legally executed.

At a five-hour hearing Friday at the state prison in Florence, Moormann, 63, answered questions at length about his recollection of the night of Jan. 13, 1984, while he was on a “compassionate furlough” from prison to visit his 74-year-old adoptive mother, Roberta Moormann, at a nearby motel.

His case prompted the state to change its furlough policy.

“It was me playing with her breasts, and that is the only part I remember,” Robert Moormann said. “I carried her in the bathtub and I knew something was wrong, so I put her in bed. I do not remember cutting her up. Sorry.”

Moormann, whom several psychologists have diagnosed as mentally impaired, addressed the board from inside a steel cage. He sometimes spoke in rambling sentences, wrung his hands, and appeared overwhelmed when board members asked him about the sexual abuse he experienced at Roberta Moormann’s hands.

Psychologists said there was overwhelming evidence that Roberta Moormann sexually abused her son throughout his childhood.

“There’s things I don’t like to talk about,” he said, appearing nervous. “Because I know that things that happened were wrong. Nobody wanted to believe me.”

He told the board that he wasn’t sure why he can’t remember the details of the killing but wondered aloud if it might be because of a stroke he had in prison in 2007.

“I accept responsibility for what happened that night,” he said. “The only two people in that room were her and me. I know I’m guilty of the crime. I wish I could go back and undo it, but I can’t.”

Moormann was serving nine years to life in prison in 1984 for kidnapping and molesting an 8-year-old girl when the state let him out on the three-day compassionate furlough.

Moormann beat, stabbed and suffocated his mother before cutting off her head, legs and arms, halving her torso, and flushing all her fingers down the toilet. He then went to various businesses asking if he could dispose of spoiled meat and animal guts before he threw most of her remains in trash bins and sewers.

He was captured after he asked a corrections employee to dispose of what he said were dog bones.

During the hearing, psychologists said Moormann was born to a 15-year-old prostitute who died when she was 17. He was bounced around six foster homes before being adopted in Flagstaff when he was 5.

The doctors, including one who often testifies against inmates, said Moormann was “absolutely” mentally disabled, which would make it illegal for the state to execute him.

Other doctors have estimated that Moormann’s intellectual capacity is just above that of someone who is legally considered mentally disabled.

Dr. Jack Potts, a forensic psychologist who has testified on behalf the defense and prosecution in various death-penalty cases, told the clemency board Friday that he believes Moormann was subjected to years of sexual abuse. As a boy, Moormann drooled, walked funny, and looked different from others, causing him to be ostracized among his peers and completely dependent on his mother.

“This man was born condemned,” Potts said. “When he was born, his chance of living a normal life was zero.”

Moormann has told varying stories of his sexual abuse, at one time saying that Roberta forced him to engage in “rough sex,” according to his attorney. On Friday, Moormann told board members that he and his mother did “only things from the belly button up.”

His attorney, Julie Hall, told the clemency board the state has never executed a person who killed their abuser.

“Robert Moormann would be the first, and that is unconscionable,” she said.

Prosecutor Greg Bizzozero told the board that Moormann did not meet Arizona’s legal standard to be considered mentally disabled and the evidence is overwhelming that Moormann planned his mother’s death, and beat and stabbed her before he killed her.

“Robert Moormann murdered the only woman who we’ve heard ever really loved him,” Bizzozero said.

On Thursday, a federal judge also declined to delay Moormann’s execution and that of another death-row inmate, Robert Charles Towery, who is set to be executed March 8. The ruling has been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Of the 130 inmates on Arizona’s death row, only six have been there longer than Moormann, who has had a slew of health problems over the years and most recently was hospitalized last week.

The last inmate to be executed in Arizona was Thomas Paul West, who was put to death July 19 for the beating death of another man in a 1987 robbery.

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